Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Monday, March 31, 2014

TLI Experts Tout Way to Prepare Students for 21st Century

Failing to apply the advanced technologies that are being used in everyday life to the school environment and overlooking the connection between such useful, affordable technological tools and good teaching is what education experts Dr. Chris Dede and Rushton Hurley believe is still missing from today's schools.

Dr. Christopher Dede speaks at the Jan. 10 TLI event
Dr. Dede, a Timothy E. Wirth professor in learning technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and Mr. Hurley, executive director of Next Vista for Learning, served as keynote speakers at the LHRIC's Jan. 10 Technology Leadership Institute event held at the Edith Macyin Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

In his talk titled, "Transforming Education for the 21st Century," Dr. Dede explained the challenges educators face and ways they can address them. Learning, he explained, can no longer be confined to the years that students spend in school or the hours they spend in the classroom. "It must be lifelong, life-wide and available in demand."

"What happens outside of the classroom in students' lives looks a lot like 21st century work as opposed to what happens inside the current classroom," added Dr. Dede, who served on the technical working group that helped craft the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan.

Dr. Dede suggested that the concept known as Digital Teaching Platforms (DTP) might provide the kind of technology support that would help teachers engage students.

The initiative is a category of products designed to bring interactive technology to teaching and learning in classrooms. Dr. Dede said it supports real-time, teacher-directed interaction where students and instructors all have laptops and are working together in a networked digital environment.

So, instead of passively watching an educational clip on their devices, students could become actively immersed. A good example is the work he and his colleagues at Harvard are doing with students in the Cambridge Public Schools.

The curriculum research project, known as EcoMUVE, uses multi-user virtual environments that look and feel like video games, but engage students in authentic ecological settings that teach them about ecosystems.

The use of such programs teaches enquiry skills, therefore honing the interpersonal and interpersonal skills that students will need later on in their careers, explained Dr. Dede.

Virtual performance assessments are also possible with this type of learning, he added. In fact, one of the important aspects of DTP is that there are opportunities to exploit the power of technology for formative assessment. That same technology that supports the learning is also gathering data on how students are using it. "Almost second-by-second, learners are being watched as the system identifies where they wander off track, alerting the teacher as a result," Dr. Dede explained.

This type of assessment, as opposed to summative assessment strategies, provides more leverage for improvement, he noted. "The digital curriculum, if it has this kind of diagnostic assessment built into it, can be much more informative for teachers."

Rushton Hurley speaks at the Jan. 10 TLI event.
Much like Dr. Dede, Mr. Hurley also sees the need to embrace technology in new ways. Part of the issue with many school systems, and indeed with teachers, he said, is their inability to deal with the rapid pace of technological change.

"A lot of people experience fear and stress, which seem to be the dominant emotions in relation to technology," said Mr. Hurley in his talk titled, "Evolving Technologies, Expanding Possibilities."

Why? Because many of them have a fear of something going wrong when a technology is implemented. But getting over that fear and allowing technology to be embraced is key, he noted.

Students who say that school is boring are often confusing the word "boring" with predictability, said Mr. Hurley. "Kids don't learn squat when they know what's coming up, but unpredictability can be a fascinating thing and a way to catch their attention, and technology allows that to happen in really, really interesting ways."

Accessing the plethora of free online tools that are currently available to teachers is a way of erasing the predictability that so many students experience on a daily basis, he said.

Mr. Hurley encouraged participants, many of them school district administrators, to give their teachers a reason to love technology. "Use what's freely available, gather feedback, show them that you will follow through, celebrate excellence, share what you're doing and build a shared vision."

To find out more about Dr. Dede's work, visit Mr. Hurley provides teachers with great resources at his website,

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